All you wanted to know about Hull ID Numbers
Table of Contents
Hull identification number – Hull Serial Number (HIN)
What is a Hull Identification Number?
All pleasure boats made or imported into the USA must have a Hull Serial Number (HIN) attached or affixed to different parts of the hull in both visible and hidden locations. It should be large and the HIN characters must be no less than 6 mm (height & width). The HIN is thus a serial number on the vessel and it helps law enforcement identify a lost or stolen boat! You can also use the HIN to find out about recalls. The format of the HIN is important and has changed over the years. The most important thing to know is that it must be 12 characters long. Think of a HIN like a VIN for your car. A HIN hull number is often confused for a State registration number. The State Reg number is typically displayed on the bow of your boat. Instead, think of the State reg. number like a car license plate.
What is the format of a HIN? What does a HIN look like?
The first three letters are the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MIC). For example, YAM would be for Yamaha. You are not expected to know all the codes and you can in fact look them up on the HIN Decoder MIC Search page. The MIC is followed by the serial number and then the month and year for that model and manufacture date.
Example HIN: YAM12457G304
We have put together a detailed table of all the formats over the years. Here is a list of all Hull ID number Types.
Where is the location of the Hull ID Number tag?
The HIN must be placed in a clearly visible location on the boat such that it is visible even when the vessel is in the water. Look for the HIN on the upper starboard quarter of the outside surface of the transom. Another location to look for it is on the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull.
You must never alter or remove a hull ID number. If for some reason your boat does not have one or it is a homemade boat, you should contact the STATE or the USCG to get one issued. Sometimes it is the job of the manufacturer or importer but the USCG will let you know what to do.
The HIN will also be affixed in a hidden location that is unexposed. This hidden HIN can be used by police to search for a stolen boat.
Other Names for HIN:
In the USA, it is called HIN (Hull identification number) but in Australia it is called CIN (craft identification number). While in the UK, they call it (watercraft identification number) WIN.
Where can I find my boat HIN?
The HIN must be located where it is visible when the boat is in the water on the outside starboard (right) side of the transom but if there is no transom, then check the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull.
You might also find a second HIN under a piece of hardware. The HIN is also shown on the State certificate of registration papers and insurance papers as well.
What Are Hull ID (HINs) Useful For?
The main purpose of a HIN is SAFETY.
For example, the Hull ID number can be used to notify boat owners of a recall campaign. Additionally, it can be used to identify stolen boats.
For us, we use the HIN to lookup boat alert history reports. This has many benefits to the boat buyer and just like a carfax is used to run the VIN Check report on cars, boat alert runs a HIN Check on boats.
Where does the MIC come from?
The first three characters of the hull number are the MIC (Manufacturer Identification Code) but where do they come from? They are assigned by the US Coast Guard to the manufacturer or the person importing the boat. You can lookup the MIC code for any boat maker company on hindecoder.com or the USCG website because they keep a searchable database of MICs if you want to perform a boat hull ID lookup.
What if you build a boat in your backyard?
Home made boats have a special provision and individuals building boats for their own use (not to sell) can be referred to as “backyard boat builders.” In this case you should get a 12 character Hull ID Number from your State DNR or DMV. It will have an MIC of xxZ where xx are your 2 state letters abbreviation.
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